The best format for a customer number, order number

user interface

A large international company deploys a new web and MOTO (Mail Order and Telephone Order) handling system. Among other things you are tasked to design format for both order and customer identification numbers.

What would be the best format in your opinion? Please list any assumptions and considerations.

Accepted Answer

Michael Haren's answer selected due to the most up votes, but please do read other answers and comments as they make Michael's answer more complete.

Best Answer

Go with all numbers or all letters. If you must mix it up, then make sure there are no ambiguous characters (Il1m, O0, etc.).

When displayed/printed, put spaces in every 3-4 characters but make sure your systems can handle inputs without the spaces.

Edit: Another thing to consider is having a built in way to distinguish orders, customers, etc. e.g. customers always start with 10, orders always start with 20, vendors always start with 30, etc.

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